Simmering face-off set to explode

The fuse has been lit and now the simmering holiday let face-off is set to explode.

It will be probably one of a number of ‘please explain’ letters that will shorten the fuse and trigger the start of a court battle that will determine the increasingly volatile issue.

The letters will come from Byron Council and will be addressed to the owners of properties used for holiday lets and which have been the subject of complaints from neighbours.

In general terms, the owners probably will be asked to explain why they are running tourist businesses in residential areas without approvals.

The owner will either stop holiday letting, or take the council on in court.

On the strength of a vote by the council last Thursday which saw it determine that holiday letting in residential areas required approval and to be regulated, council staff have been asked to come back with a report on potential holiday letting compliance matters.

The decision has led to an angry response from Holiday Let Organisation (HLO) spokesman, John Gudgeon, who described it as a ‘vendetta’ and anti-business and anti-tourism.

Mr Gudgeon said it was hard to understand what the council’s motivation was, other than some sort of Greens ideology in coming to the decision which would hit tourism in Byron Bay and cost jobs.

He said he was ‘absolutely prepared’ to fight the matter in court.

The council didn’t talk to people involved and didn’t try to form a platform for ‘reasonable discussions’, he said.

Mr Gudgeon said the mayor, Cr Jan Barham, was defying the State Government which sooner or later would get ‘sick to death’ of the council.

“It’s time that somebody who has got the power and rationale to give us in the Byron Shire something we deserve – competent local government,” he said.

The council had proposed a precinct-based approach to holiday lets, but the State Government said it wouldn’t support such a move.

Cr Barham said she believed the council had been very reasonable in trying to accommodate holiday lets in tourist-type zones near beaches and services in a bid to maintain the amenity of residential areas.

But she said with the State Government rejecting that approach, the council would have to go back to the status quo.

“The intangible issue is the impact on our community and the loss of community,” she said.

“If it’s tourism, it should be regulated. It’s a pretty simple principle.”

During the public access session at last Thursday’s meeting, resident Simon Davis said he bought into a residential area at Byron Bay but had to put up with a house next door being holiday let seven days a week, 52 weeks a year.

“If I wanted to buy in a commercial area and wanted to have tourist facilities next door, I would have bought in a commercial area,” he said.

“It’s ruining the community amenity.

“We are people who live in these areas who want their neighbours as neighbours, not tourists.

“How can people blatantly abuse the rules and have a commercial tourist enterprise on their properties?”

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